"Shopping is a woman thing. It's a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase." -- Erma Bombeck
It's a picture-perfect Sunday morning, a definite taste of springtime in the summer. My wife and I are on our way to our favorite breakfast place, the Harborview Market, in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, for the almond croissants -- a hit of deliciousness -- and a steaming hot cup of joe. One of my all time favorite bands, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's recent release, "CSNY 1974," is cranked up on the car stereo and they sound great. As David Crosby said, "It's the music, man, it's the music."
After polishing off my almond croissant in record-breaking time, I get a coffee refill and have a conversation with Enrique Torres, Harborview Market owner and Black Rock City Councilman -- making a new batch of almond croissants -- about Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, London, the power of the written and spoken word, and local politics. In addition to the almond croissants, what I like most about the Harborview are the conversations and the friendly vibe; there's not a better place for me to start the day.
When I get back to my table, my wife tells me that she just got an email from the Gap: "Going Fast. Final Sale. Up to 75 percent off." She gives me the "look" and says, "Let's check it out." I have no choice but to say, "Sure."
My wife honed her shopping style on Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland, and hasn't missed a beat since. She resembles a prima ballerina as she elegantly weaves her way through a store, head held high, taking in the cornucopia of possibilities, but always on the lookout for sale items. She's poetry in motion, a browser and shopper par excellence.
The only clothing stores I ever shop in are the Gap, for jeans, cords, shirts and polo shirts and Bob's Store for Chuck Taylor's. Browsing has never been part of my limited shopping repertoire; I only use the word when confronted by a salesperson asking, "Can I help you?" to which I reply, "I'm only browsing." What I usually get back is that cold stare that screams: "We know you're lying, you pathetic empty shell of a shopper! You probably never take advantage of Black Friday or Cyber Monday or Shop 'Til You Drop Saturday. You have no shopping style. What in the world is wrong with you?"
When we shop together -- something I judiciously try to avoid except at the Gap -- I can't keep up with her. I turn my head for an instant and she's off. Like a great NFL running back, she hones in on the desired item through a sea of shoppers, darts through the smallest of openings and SCORE!
Shopping is an emotional experience for my wife. One look into her sparkling blue eyes and you know her neurons are firing like crazy. She is a shopping warrior and loves the challenge of finding something she wants at the lowest price available. She's been known to call divergent items, such as towels and armoires, gorgeous, a term men reserve for foreign sports car and members of the opposite sex.
I sheepishly admit that while living in Europe I loved going to local markets and bartering in a "deal or no deal" kind of showdown. My crowning achievements were the leather jacket I snagged in an Amsterdam flea market and the rock 'n' roll boots I found at the Portobello Road market in London. The jacket still hangs in my closet (next to the suit I wore at my wedding, that I will fit into again -- one day), against the better wishes of my wife.
"Barry, don't you think it's time you threw out that jacket?"
"No!!! It has great memories."
How can I throw out a tattered leather jacket, jean jacket, rock 'n' roll T-shirt with holes or beaten up Chuck Taylors? They have a distinguished history and mean a lot to me. Women, even with their highly developed emotional circuitry, seem to overlook the strong emotional attachment men have to special articles of clothing.
One of my wife's more nefarious ploys is when she asks me how she looks, my answer is always great, while telling me, "You're not going out looking like that."
"I know the Stones T-shirt is more than 10 years old and is looking a bit ragged, but it's still a Stones Tee and that was one killer concert. Keith was brilliant as always! If I recall, you were singing `Gimme Shelter' at the top of your lungs."
We arrive at the Gap and my wife immediately puts her shopping game face on. I find what I'm looking for in less than five minutes; 45 minutes later, she settles upon a pair of white pants and two white tees, after trying on a bunch of clothes.
On the way home, we're singing along with Stephen Stills on "Love the One You're With." It's the perfect end to another out-bloody-standing day.
Barry Halpin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.